Briefs

Estonia: 21–27 November 2016

  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Twitter
Estonian lawmaker Yana Toom has claimed that a European Parliament resolution to counteract anti-EU propaganda by third parties contains the rhetoric of totalitarian regimes, supports censorship and is based on anonymous, propagandistic reports.

Event: In a 23 November article published by Baltnews.ee, Estonian MEP Yana Toom—an Estonian member of the European Parliament (EP)—said a resolution to counteract third-party propaganda against the European Union contains totalitarian rhetoric, supports censorship and is based on propagandistic anonymous reports supplied by East StratCom. 

The false fact or narrative: The article contains two false facts: first, that the resolution in question contains totalitarian rhetoric and supports censorship; and second, that the EU’s East StratCom reports are propagandistic. 

Reality on the ground: In the article, Toom neither proved nor gave examples of how the resolution on EU strategic communication to counteract anti-EU propaganda by third parties contains totalitarian rhetoric, is about EU counter-propaganda and supports censorship. Nor does the text of the resolution show any sign of totalitarian rhetoric, counter-propaganda or censorship. On the contrary, it is very general. It states, for example, that EU member states and citizens are under growing, systematic pressure to tackle disinformation from countries and non-state actors, and that more cooperation and exchange of information among various parties is needed. Toom also did not show how the East StratCom reports are propagandistic. The East StratCom Task Force—created in 2015 to submit an action plan on strategic communication in order to address Russia's ongoing disinformation campaigns— issues two weekly online newsletters: the Disinformation Review and the Disinformation Digest.  The first collects examples of pro-Kremlin disinformation all around Europe and beyond, while the second analyzes how pro-Kremlin media see the world and what independent Russian voices say. Neither are propagandistic; they are instead analytical and informative. 

Techniques: 
  • No proof; 
  • conspiracy theories; 
  • wolf cries wolf.

Audience: Estonia’s Russian-speaking minority.

Analysis: Suggesting that the EP passed the resolution to spread propaganda, censor Russian media and commit censorship creates the false narrative that the EU violates its own values and limits on freedom of expression, press freedom and the freedom to access information. 

Description of sources: Baltnews.ee is a Russian-language propaganda site in Estonia.  Baltnews portals were launched simultaneously in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania—accordingly baltnews.ee, baltnews.lt and baltnews.lv—in late 2014. According to the Annual Review of Estonian Internal Security Service, these portals are funded by Rossiya Segodnya, a news agency that is wholly owned and operated by the Russian government. Its Estonian operations are led by Aleksandr Kornilov, a member of the local Coordination Council of Russian Compatriots and head of the propaganda portal baltija.eu. The Baltnews project is funded via Media Capital Holding BV, a company registered in the Netherlands and controlled by people related to Rossiya Segodnya. One of the founders of the Baltnews project was Vladimir Lepekhin, director of the Eurasian Economic Community Institute, which actively participates in Russia’s influence operations in neighboring countries.